It was “Operation” Mill Race Marathon on race eve at The Commons.

Tucked away in a corner at the marathon’s Health & Fitness Expo, Surgery Sam was a bona fide hit for runners who were picking up race packets Friday in preparation for today’s events.

Hundreds of runners and family members meandered through the expo and its exhibitors, checking out wellness options, merchandise and playing games for prizes.

In a corner reserved for Columbus Regional Health, Sam was a takeoff of the classic “Operation” game where players attempt to remove plastic ailment icons from a caricature patient — with a large red light bulb for a nose — using tweezers. If the tweezers touch the odd-shaped hiding places of the icons, the red bulb lights up with a loud buzz.

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Instead of a regular-size game, the expo’s Surgery Sam offered players a big game board and even bigger tweezers to grasp the icons, which included a lightening bolt for “thunder thighs” and a pair of handcuffs for “cardiac arrest.” A tiny hobo bag represented a bum knee, and an ice cream cone was “brain freeze.”

Gina Fields of Seymour laughed as she tried to beat the 1 minute, 30 second time on the clock to get all the icons out of Sam and into a surgery pan.

“It was harder with the smaller version,” she allowed, but noted that the large thunderbolt in the thigh was a tough one.

Beth Dawson, a Columbus Regional Health event specialist, said she found Surgery Sam on the Internet when looking for something interactive and fun to offer at this year’s expo. Past years have included a walk-through colon and a walk-through heart.

This time, the hospital opted for bringing back a version of a popular game that brings back a lot of childhood memories, Dawson said.

“And it’s also cute,” she said.

For those who didn’t get a chance to play around with Surgery Sam on Friday, the hospital system will move him to its WellConnect facility at 237 Washington St. beginning next week, Dawson said. Companies are invited to have their employees compete on Surgery Sam and a leader board will be kept for times posted by individuals while trying to beat the 1 minute, 30 second time limit.

While waiting for an opening on Surgery Sam, kids were invited to shoot a huge basketball through a giant-size hoop, sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Runners who were picking up packets also could check out information about upcoming races.

Runners who were picking up packets were enjoying the wide variety of information booths at the expo. Cummins employees Tejas Shah and Deepali Bafna, both of Columbus, said they are running in the 5K today with about 10 of their friends.

“Our plan is to stay together,” Bafna said.

Jonnah Baker, who is a Cummins systems engineer for after treatment in the emissions solutions division, said she’s been training since May to run in today’s half marathon.

She’s hoping for a time of about 2 hours, 30 minutes, and will be running with a friend on the course. Baker said she ran in the first half marathon three years ago and hopes to be a little more toward the front of the group of runners at the start.

The expo provided plenty of options to explore the health aspect of running, from checking out shoes and gear to opportunities for evaluations of common running ailments that may be treated various ways.

Kenney Orthopedics, along with Columbus Foot & Ankle and Columbus Cycling and Fitness, offered a gait analysis where individuals could walk on a treadmill and receive advice.

Drew Wyant, an orthotist/pedorthist, said many issues stem from old or the incorrect type of shoes, something that can be identified by watching people’s gait on a treadmill. Sometimes an individual will benefit from a different type of shoe or an orthotic insert, he said.

As runners entered the expo on the first floor, they could watch video of the entire course by mile on a large screen television. All of the entries in the marathon poster contest lined a display board nearby, and a “2016 Finisher Mill Race Marathon” photo backdrop with the Robert Stewart Bridge in the background awaited finishers.

Laurie Wright, who has a studio and framing business at 811 Lindsey St., was offering prints of this year’s winning marathon poster, created by and signed by Columbus East High School’s Emily Hales.

Wright had a magnifying glass handy for runners who wanted to find their name on the poster for the half marathon, which has more than 1,600 entrant names, a perk offered to those who registered by Sept. 1 for the race.

“If you run the marathon, you don’t need that magnifying glass,” she said with a laugh, referring to just over 300 names of runners who are taking on the 26.2 miles this morning.

By the numbers

Number of exhibitors at Health & Fitness Expo: 28

Runner packets available for pickup Friday: 3,569

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.